It is always fun to see what kind of unusual items people might encounter as they scan the local selection of fresh produce and flowers each week at the farmers market.
One item that always draws curiosity this time of year are those bright green-skinned tropical cherimoyas.
If you have yet to experience this exotic fruit, I highly recommend putting them toward the top of your shopping list, as they possess a flavor unlike anything you have ever tried.
This fruit has a very sweet bright white flesh, which is both smooth and juicy. At first bite, it is hard to pinpoint the flavor. The first thoughts that come to mind are that this fruit tastes a little like a pear, pineapple and a banana all rolled into one. The texture allows the fruit to effortlessly melt in your mouth and slide down your throat with ease. Absolutely delicious!
Cherimoyas are of a Central and South American origin. They mainly hail from Ecuador and Peru, but have since adapted very nicely throughout Santa Barbara County along our more coastal sectors.
Our local harvest tends to run from December through about late March, so it’s the perfect fruit to hold us through the winter until the summer stone fruit begins. Cherimoyas are also a great way to ensure your proper nutrient intake through the winter as they are loaded with vitamin C, calcium,and niacin.
When the fruit is ready to harvest, it’s typically picked on the firmer side, as it becomes very fragile when soft. When selecting your fruit, look for the brighter green skin and larger fruit for best results, which typically has a higher flesh-to-seed ratio and therefore are often much easier to consume.
When you get your fruit home, simply place it on the countertop and wait for it to ripen.
You will know that it is ready when you feel a slight give to touch, like that of a ripe avocado, which should be checked daily, so they do not get overripe. A firm cherimoya will usually take about four to five days to ripen. When they are ready to eat, they can be placed into the refrigerator, which halts the ripening process. They will be good for a few days thereafter to pull out and enjoy when you are ready.
Cherimoyas can be enjoyed many ways. The most common is to simply slice one in half and scoop out the smooth velvety flesh with a spoon. Served slightly chilled out of the refrigerator often yields a perfect balance of texture and flavor.
This week I prepared a quick vegan cherimoya custard, topped with sliced strawberries and pistachio kernels.
2 cups cherimoya flesh
¼ cup vanilla almond milk (unsweetened)
Dash of ground cinnamon
Small pinch of salt
2 large strawberries diced or sliced (blueberries are also a nice substitute).
2 tablespoons pistachio kernels, chopped
Place cherimoya, almond milk, cinnamon and salt in a blender. Blend until just smooth. Place in a Mason jar, or something comparable, and put in the freezer for about 1 hour. Remove and top with strawberries and pistachios.
Yield: Serves 1.